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Research Guides

Why Use Background Sources


Encyclopedias are a good place to start preliminary exploration of a topic.

  • Encyclopedias help you figure out the who, what & where of a topic. Knowing the who, what & where of a topic is the first step in researching a topic and discovering the "how" and "why".
  • Plus you can use the who, whats and wheres to to find relevant secondary sources (using the sources listed under the tab "Historian's Interpretations") as well as primary sources.
  • And encyclopedias give you a jump start on your research by listing important books in the bibliography at the end of the entry.

Both print (located in Suzzallo Reference on the 1st floor) and online encyclopedias are listed below. Two online encyclopedia collections: Gale Virtual Reference  &  Oxford Reference Online